In explaining why Malaysia needed to suspend democracy for the first time in half a century to fight the pandemic, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin assured the nation he wasn’t staging a military coup.

But his opponents found it hard to view the first nationwide emergency since 1969 as anything but a power grab. While the Southeast Asian nation has seen a surge of coronavirus cases in recent weeks along with many other countries, measures to combat the pandemic have generally enjoyed broad support across the political spectrum.

“Do not hide behind Covid-19 and burden the people with a declaration of emergency for the sake of saving yourself,” Pakatan Harapan, the main opposition bloc in parliament, said in a statement after the announcement.

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